Message to China: welcome to London if you're very, very rich
George Osborne isn't just making life easier for Chinese shoppers: he wants oligarchs with billions to invest
CHANCELLOR George Osborne has bowed to pressure from London store owners and big business by launching a 24-hour ‘super priority’ immigration rule for Chinese visitors to the UK, despite a growing clamour for tougher restrictions on EU immigration to Britain.
Chinese visitors will now be able to fill in a single so-called Schengen form accepted in 26 EU countries which allow free movement between their borders.
It means Chinese visitors to the UK will no longer have to fill in a separate visa application for Britain.
It follows a campaign led by the Daily Telegraph and some of the most prestigious stores in London, including Harrods, who warned that the colonial-style restrictions on China were costing Britain £1.2bn in lost revenue from high-value Chinese tourists put off from visiting the capital.
Announcing the easing of visa restrictions, Osborne said on Radio 4's Today programme this morning that he also wanted to change British attitudes to China. There is “still a bit of a British attitude which treats China as a bit of a sweatshop on the Pearl River", he told Today presenter John Humphrys.
“One-hundred-and-sixty million Chinese people are watching Downton Abbey, more than double the UK's population," said the Chancellor approvingly.
Osborne’s announcement, made during a trade mission to Beijing with David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson, will please Tory entrepreneurs because it could bring in huge investment in British business - but it will do nothing to ease fears about the burden of immigrants in the UK from the EU.
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that an EU report today will reveal 600,000 EU migrants are “economically inactive” yet living in the UK, costing Britain £1.5bn in benefits each year.
Sky News has declared this 'Immigration Week’ in order to air the problems that have led Home Secretary Theresa May to table yet another immigration bill aimed at stemming the flow into Britain. Political editor Adam Boulton took to the front seat of a black cab to get some views on immigration, while Sky News published a poll showing 67 per cent of Britons want more done to stop immigration.
The difference between the immigrants May wants to discourage and those Osborne wants to encourage is, of course, money. The Chinese economy is still booming and Chinese inward investment could help the Chancellor balance the books for his Autumn Statement on 4 December.
It's not just tourists to Harrods he is seeking to attract. The government hopes to encourage a new brand of Chinese oligarch, with billions of dollars to invest in Britain.
The trip to China has already produced £800 million in investment in the expansion of the Manchester city airport ‘enterprise zone’ which the Chancellor said this morning could produce 16,000 jobs in Britain. He also hinted that China is interested in financing a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK.
Britain, in short, is open for business - if you are Chinese and very, very rich. ·